By Lori Dresner, Managing Editor/News Editor
One of the first things prospective students notice when they visit a college campus is whether or not it is visually appealing. In many cases, the exterior and interior aesthetics of a campus can even make or break a student’s decision to attend that particular school. I know that I am not alone when I say that the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ visual aesthetics could use considerable improvement, especially in the places where students spend most of their time: the classrooms.
While amenities like the Recreation and Wellness Center do enhance the campus’ appearance substantially, the most pressing improvements are those required inside the buildings where classes are held. Since UMSL is a commuter campus, many students do not engage in activities on campus other than attending classes. Therefore, the one place you will always find students on a commuter campus—classrooms—should remain high on the list of priorities when it comes to making renovations and ensuring that they remain top-notch in appearance.
The university has faced heavy recruitment, enrollment, and retention challenges in recent years. UMSL saw a 6.4 percent decline in total campus enrollment from Fall 2015 and enrolled less than 500 freshmen last fall for only the second time in 30 years. In addition to negative public perceptions, one of the recruitment challenges cited in the Fall 2015 Enrollment Summary was subpar campus facilities and amenities. Considering this, the university should make every effort to invest as much as possible in making the campus appealing for both those who visit the campus and those who are already here.
As with any college campus, there are some buildings whose appearances are notoriously worse than others. There is no question that some of the oldest buildings on campus—the Benton and Stadler complex, for instance—are in dire need of renovations to their classrooms, restrooms, and overall interiors. Like many of the other buildings on campus, the complex is simply outdated. Strides of progress have been made, including the opening of the new Science Learning Building that now adjoins Benton and Stadler Hall. Entirely new buildings are not always necessary, however; many of the already-existing buildings on campus would simply benefit from a few renovations and updates, such as new desks and carpeting, fresh coats of paint, and upgrades to more modern furniture.
At a time when our university is facing a substantial budget deficit, some may find it ludicrous for me to argue that the university should be investing more in the visual aesthetics of our campus. However, from a student’s perspective, I think that taking the chance and investing more in the campus’ appearance is better than sitting back and hoping that the enrollment and recruitment challenges will improve on their own.